The Conceiting Portrait (Part 11)
The Conceiting Portrait (Part 11)7 mins 202 7 mins 202
“You know, it all makes sense now. If the treasure is under the museum, then it is quite reasonable to kill people who visit that place.” Jo said with her fingers rubbing her chin. “But who could it possibly be? That is my question.” Max added. “I may have a lead. When I was at Clara’s funeral, I saw a peculiar man standing in the far corner. I’m pretty sure he was there to attend Clara’s funeral and had not come there by chance. He was a white American; not a native.” “Would you recognise him if you saw him anywhere?” Blake asked “Most certainly. I remember his face just as my alphabets.” Jo replied confidently. “Then we shouldn’t delay. We could draw his sketch and circulate it in our college magazine. Anyone who has seen him can contact us.” Max suggested. “But that isn’t a reliable source. We might get many fraud contacts if we offer a small sum of money to the person who gives us any info. We won’t be able to figure out which ones are right and which are wrong. Plus, won’t the killer get to know that we are searching for him if we spread the word in any way? This would only delay things and, who knows? He might have even gotten the treasure. It’s too risky.” Jo countered his thoughts and put forward a rational point. “But it’s worth the shot.” Blake said. “Apart from this, there is one more thing. If we are to prove that there is a murder amidst us, we need to have proof. We just have a theory and personal experience that has led us to the fact there this is all a killer’s work. Added to that, we also have to convince how we figured out that there are nanotech particles. No one is going to believe that a soul contacted me and gave me this info.” Jo explained. “Even we still don’t believe that but since things have clarity now, it wouldn’t be fair to not believe you. But you do have a point there. We need proof; else there is no way to bring the murder into light.” Max took Clara’s diary and began reading it for any hidden clues. “Mr Blake, is there any possible way you could take a week’s leave and go to Young Gnomes Orphanage? I’d like you to meet Sister Emilie there. Clara was sent to a psychologist for mental treatment when she first witnessed these blue anatomies after a school trip to the museum. The portrait was on open display then so there was no question of sneaking into the restricted area. Sister Emilie must know who the psychologist was. If we could make arrangements to meet him, we might get an idea how she stopped witnessing them after the medication.” Jo asked Blake who was busy watching his recorded incident at the restaurant. “I will try my best. There is something I want you to see.” Jo took his phone and played the video. She paid full attention to the video and suddenly exclaimed at Blake to stop the video. They rewinded the video and zoomed in at a person who sat among the group of western people. It was the same American man Jo saw at the funeral. “I remember the waiter. We saw him at Selliti’s, didn’t we?” Jo said. “Yes, but I won’t be able to go to Selliti’s. I’m going to Young Gnomes; just like you asked me to.” “So, I’ll go to Selliti’s.” Jo had made her mind. “Max is going to collect all sorts of proof about the murderer and spread the word. Mr Blake is going to contact Sister Emilie, find the whereabouts of the psychologist and contact him regarding Clara. I, on the other hand, will try to find out this American man by first meeting with the waiter. Are we missing anything?” The trio rehearsed their plan and were off on their individual missions to find out this secret killer.
It had been a long time since Max visited the City Library. He had always been fond of books. But he never made his way there anymore because the last time he visited the library, he was with Clara, searching about Michelle’s long lost family history. He took a deep breath and walked in. The librarian greeted him and helped him find some books about Michelle de la Vanilli. “These are the same books we read last time. Are there more of them?” Max said as he turned the old yellow pages. “There ought to be a few in the archives below but I ain’t supposed to be there. Only authorized staff are allowed.” The librarian shook her head in dismay and turned around to walk towards her desk. “Do you mind telling me where the archive is? I’d like to see if any passer-by will let me in.” Max said with a twinkle of mischief in his eye. “Of course not! You go straight and take the second left. You ought to be there.” She smiled and left. “Time to break into another forbidden area.” He whispered under his breath and stealthily walked into the archives.
Blake had been travelling for almost two days now. He stretched and yawned as he stepped out of the bus. It was quite cold and foggy. Young Gnomes was situated in a hill station far from the city. He walked to the nearest tea stall for some directions as well as a glass of hot tea. “Hoe far is from here?” “Just a walking distance of 10 minutes sir; not that far.” The tea staller pointed towards east as Blake sipped the hot tea. He walked on for ten minutes; just as the tea staller suggested. He walked up a small lane and soon heard the laughter of young children. He opened the gate of the orphanage and saw the orphans singing rhymes and running around as they chased one another. “Are you here for adoption?” Blake heard a sweet sound. He turned around to see a middle-aged woman with small wrinkles near her deep ocean blue eyes. She had a graceful smile with black hair and streaks of white near her ears. “I’m looking for Sister Emilie.” he said, holding out a letter from Joan. “Have we met before? Your face is intriguing…” she said and took the letter from his hand. “I was with Joan the day you came to take Clara’s belongings away for the orphanage.” He reasoned. “Yes, I remember. Is this from Joan?” the nun adjusted her spectacles and read it thoroughly. Her eyes widened and her expression had changed. She no longer looked like a sweet woman. Blake could say that she was rather petrified with what was written on the paper. Her face was pale when she lifted her head and managed to whisper the words, “Is this true?” Blake could see her eyes well up as he nodded in agreement. Suddenly she started having seizures. She collapsed on the floor as the fits took over her senses. The other nuns quickly rushed to her and arranged for immediate medication.
Jo wore her grey trousers and red hoodie to go to Selliti’s. She ordered two cappuccinos and waited for the waiter to serve. She looked around for him searchingly but he was nowhere to be seen. Another waiter served her the two cappuccinos. She thanked him and waited for a while for him to turn up. She gulped down the second cappuccino in vain and paid the bill. Just as she was about to leave, she noticed that there was only one waiter on duty. She rushed back to the counter and asked the cashier impatiently, “You have two waiters working here right? Where’s the second one?” “I’m afraid he committed suicide yesterday at around five in the morning.” The cashier said in dismay. “What?!” Jo nearly disturbed the entire café. “Yes, the police had come to look into the matter. They say he had consumed morphine tartrate and so does the post-mortem say. He even left a note. Poor chap! He barely had money to afford another pen. But, he was a gleeful man. Never let poverty define himself!” Jo was shocked. She felt like crying for losing her only lead to the American man.